San Francisco Appoints First Non-Citizen To Election Commission

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Feb 18, 2024 - 11:40 PM

Authored by Melanie Sun via The Epoch Times,

San Francisco’s Elections Commission has, for what is believed to be a first time in history, appointed a non-U.S. citizen, who isn’t legally allowed to vote, to serve as an official.

The officer, Kelly Wong, was sworn in on Wednesday, according to local news outlet KQED. It reported that Ms. Wong, an immigrant rights advocate, is a native of Hong Kong who arrived in the United States in 2019 for graduate studies.

She was sworn in by Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin during a ceremony at San Francisco City Hall after winning unanimous support from the board.

“This appointment is a milestone for all immigrant and marginalized communities throughout SF,” Ms. Wong said in a LinkedIn post on Thursday. “Representation matters: thousands of immigrants living in the city hold stakes in politics and there’s no better way to have us be represented than to serve in leadership positions.”

“I am deeply committed to ensuring that everyone, regardless of immigration status, has a seat at the table in shaping the future of our city.”

The appointment of a non-citizen to city boards, commissions, and advisory bodies was made possible in a 2020 vote, which saw voters pass the proposal by lawmakers to remove the standing requirement that candidates seeking office hold U.S. citizenship.

Mr. Peskin at the ceremony on Wednesday applauded Ms. Wong’s activism, saying, “I’m very impressed by her commitment to enfranchising people who rarely vote, to educating people about the voting process, and to bring in noncitizens and get them the tools they need as they become citizens,” he told KQED.

The former resident of Hong Kong, which now belongs to China and recently saw mass pro-democracy protests over the people’s lack of true electoral representation, said she hopes to improve immigrant and non-English voter engagement in her new home city of San Francisco, which has a ranked-choice voting system. She also told KQED that one of her priorities would be to put resources into better translations of voter materials.

“I’ve seen how language and cultural barriers prevent immigrants with limited English proficiency from fully exercising their right to vote,” Ms. Wong said.

Ms. Wong will now join six other members of the civilian-led commission, whose job it is to oversee policy and operations for the city’s Department of Elections.

As all member roles are unpaid, Ms. Wong said she would also continue her work for progressive advocacy group Chinese for Affirmative Action—a non-government organization founded in 1969 that is focused on protecting the “civil and political rights of Chinese Americans and to advance multiracial democracy in the United States,” the group says on its website.

She has worked for the group since 2022.

Chinese for Affirmative Action in 2016 supported other progressive advocacy efforts to further liberalize voting access, lobbying the government to change the law to allow non-citizens to vote on school board elections if their child attends a school in the district. Their efforts succeeded after challenges in the state’s courts.

Ms. Wong thanked City of San Francisco’s Immigrant Rights Commissioner Sarah Souza—who arrived in the United States as an illegal immigrant child and was the first of her kind in California appointed to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee—for her successful campaign in 2020 to change the law and allow non-citizens to serve on local commissions and advisory boards.

“Without Sarah’s advocacy and perseverance, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to represent immigrant voices and contribute to shaping the future of our communities,” Ms. Wong said in her post.

“To all immigrants in SF: I hope my appointment to the Elections Commission serves as a beacon of hope, showing that change is possible and your voices matter in policymaking. If I can do it, you can too.”

Vincent Pan, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, also congratulated Ms. Wong.

He told KQED, “I’m hoping there will be a day where it won’t be as newsworthy that you have someone who’s an immigrant and a noncitizen involved in helping make the city run better, especially in a city where such a large percentage of the community is immigrants.”